The “war on terror” comes home

January 5, 2012

Ben Silverman comments on the war on civil liberties--and the importance of fighting back to preserve our rights.

THE LATEST attacks on civil liberties, including Obama's recent signing into law of indefinite detention for U.S. citizens, have their roots far back in the Sedition Act and the first Red Scare--but in recent memory, such tyranny is tied to things like the Patriot Act, Homeland Security, Guantánamo Bay and George W. Bush. We've seen full body scans, sonic crowd controlling weapons, aerial drones and police pepper spray.

But the "main course" has been the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2012.

Tacked onto the $662 billion budget for the Pentagon are sections 1021 and 1022. These sections affirm the president's authority to direct the military to detain anyone "who was part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban or associated forces...without trial, until the end of hostilities."

In direct conflict with the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, the NDAA gives the president the power to arrest anyone, including an American citizen, who is deemed by the government to be a "terrorist" (or to have given support to a "terrorist")--and then detain them until the day that the never-ending "war on terror" comes to a close, without a trial.

As's Glenn Greenwald rightfully explained, despite whatever defenders of the NDAA or Barack Obama may say, the act codifies indefinite detention, expands the scope of the war on terror to cover even more "associated forces" as enemies and, to reiterate, does absolutely apply to U.S. citizens captured either abroad or on American soil. In the Senate, an amendment was introduced to the bill that would have exempted U.S. citizens, but it failed.

When Obama signed the NDAA into law on the last day of 2011 as the rest of the world was ringing in the New Year, he tried to assure us that his administration "will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens"--despite the fact that the NDAA clearly gives him the power to do so. Of course, this is coming from the man who promised to close Guantánamo.

And in case there needs to be more proof that the attacks on our civil liberties and freedoms are a bipartisan pastime, the NDAA passed the Republican-controlled U.S. House by a vote of 283-136 and the Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate by a vote of 86 to 13. Terrorists may be able to take our lives, but only the U.S. government and its two corporate parties can take our freedoms.

In part, what is so horrific about the NDAA is that it is expands on all the criminal acts that the United States has perpetuated throughout the world in its various wars to now also apply to Americans.

The NDAA was a long time coming. It was prefigured by every civil liberties-shredding act that came to represent the Bush years, every time an Arab or Muslim was taken aside by the TSA, every CIA "black site" prison doted across the world.

But on the other hand, it also couldn't possibly have come any sooner. It was only under a Democratic administration, an administration that had sold itself as the antithesis of Bush's, that such a piece of legislation could come about. It's only under a president who once promised to close Guantánamo that we could see the rise of potentially scores more Guantánamos on American soil.

But we can still fight back. We need energetic protests, not energetic online petitions. Don't just call your senator--occupy your senator's office. "Resistance" needs to be the cry of every activist, socialist, progressive, anarchist, liberal or even libertarian--resistance against tyranny and despotism.

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